Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Burning (Maeve Kerrigan #1), by Jane Casey

St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books, ISBN 9780312614171, March 2014 (original publication November 2010)

The Metropolitan Police Department is chasing a serial killer called the Burning Man. in the Kennington section of London. They have four dead bodies, laid out neatly and then burned, and an increasingly frightened public and the media demanding answers.

It's all bad, but then it gets worse if possible. A young woman accepts a ride from stranger on her way home from a pub, and then becomes alarmed, convinced he's the killer, and when he stops the car nowhere near her home, she panics and pulls out a knife. Briefly, the police think they have the Burning Man and a living intended victim as a witness. Maeve Kerrigan, a young Detective Constable, interviews the victim and discovers that while the man she knifed is probably a creep, he's certainly not the Burning Man. Almost simultaneously, another body is found, dead, burned, apparently a real victim of the Burning Man.

But some things just don't quite fit, and Superintendent Godley assigns Maeve to investigate the death of Rebecca Haworth as a separate death, to figure out if it's a Burning Man killing or a copycat.

The story is told primarily in Maeve's voice, with some chapters from the viewpoint and voice of Louise North, Rebecca's best friend. She's Maeve's contemporary but a very different woman, and she provides insight into Rebecca--or at least one side of her.

Maeve is a likable and interesting character, and as she investigates we learn about her strengths, her insecurities, and we begin to learn about the complexities of Rebecca.

It's a well-told and and well-paced tale, and I'm seriously looking forward to reading more in the series. One aspect that may surprise younger American readers is the niggling, persistent, low-level harassment not just as a woman, but as "Irish." She was born and raised in England, but her parents are from Ireland, and a certain level of prejudice is just taken for granted in a way Americans wouldn't expect for that particular ethnic group.

Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.